Chuck Levenstein

I could walk dogs in the morning,
small ones, two or three at a time, carry
a shovel and big plastic bag, maybe
two, the other for cans and bottles,
not that I need a shopping cart,
no need to wander or beg, just
to stay amused.
I could pack groceries at the organic store,
chat with bony ladies and tattooed children,
grin at the Russian after 20 years
still wonder-struck by the supermarket;
I could sell flavored water to runners,
unscented deodorant to the sensitive,
coconut massage oil to the sensuous,
free range boneless breasts without skin,
triple-cream cheeses from France or Pennsylvania.
I could eye other old men who love nature
and the false promise of spandex.
I could canvass for peace or the heart
association, raise money for and against
cancer, I could ring a bell or toot a horn
at Christmas, get into fist fights with
ex-priests who picket abortion clinics.
I could smoke marijuana, hand out
flyers to legalize drugs, go to town meetings
to protest scabs at the latest luxury structure
still under construction, or the parking spaces
that will sell for $65,000 each -
I learned the price from equipment operators
who like to chat on their break -
I could be an elderly spy.
I could write poems, such a solitary game,
unless I went to workshops in Concord
or on the Cape, hung out in bars and bistros,
read at open readings until discovered
and won the Pulitzer, became
Poet Laureate of Samoa, published
in translation in obscure languages,
chanted at Naropa, had my picture taken
naked in a diner or with
Susan Sarandon on another errand
of mercy, the senior center at Temple Beth Shalom
which, without irony,
displays a sign supporting Israel
in its pursuit of peace. I could
write poems, walk dogs, pack groceries,
canvass and fight.


Charles Levenstein is author of LOST BAGGAGE, a collection of poems published by Loom Press. He is a contributing editor ("Poems of World War III") for POEMS NIEDERNGASSE, a Zurich-based e-journal, and has been published widely on on the internet. He is Professor of Work Environment at University of Massachusetts Lowell; and his most recent (non-fiction) book is THE COTTON DUST PAPERS (Baywood, 2001)


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